I’ve mentioned it before, 2020 has been a rollercoaster of a year for the film industry. Since COVID-19 forced the majority of the world into lockdown, some for an extended period, going to the movies isn’t a straightforward it once was. Theatres and distributors have had to improvise on what they’d be screening, considering the postponement of many blockbuster films that would be gracing the screens throughout the year.
Thankfully, one plan I can get fully behind is the remastering of classic anime for the big screen. Even more so when it’s in glorious IMAX 4K and Dolby Surround Sound.
When Akira was announced as one of the films to be remastered, I immediately jumped at the opportunity.
If you’ve read a few of my film reviews, you’d have noticed I’m a huge fan of IMAX. I travelled my fair share driving around Gauteng attending launches and screenings at Ster-Kinekor‘s IMAX.
I had the great privilege in 2017 to get a behind the scenes look at what makes it all tick. So I was never going to miss the chance to attend Akira in 4K on SK Mall of Africa’s near 19m IMAX screen.
It is worth pointing out that the decision was made easier by the announcement of a special screening and limited attendees for the event. There are strict protocols in place by Ster-Kinekor and the team. This includes temperature checks, hand sanitiser, pre-packaged popcorn and socially distanced seating arrangements.
Akira is one of the more popular anime in the, relatively short, history of the category. Having been released some 32 years ago, the film remains a must-watch for all anime fans. It was written and directed by Katsuhiro Ôtomo and features some of the best art style and sound even today.
It would no doubt have been an epic encounter playing Akira as it was released in 1988. But that wouldn’t match the high standards set by IMAX in order to release it in the dedicated theatre. The film isn’t a recreation of the original. Instead, it has been cleaned and upscaled to match the 4K standards of the big screen. The process includes fixing the aspect ratio for the screen, in addition to cleaning out any of the tears and scratches from the original film.
If you’ve watched any animation from the ’80s and before, there is a certain aesthetic to it. Akira is no different. The IMAX remaster doesn’t remove these details but instead enhances it. So, for all those expecting your typical IMAX animation experience with insanely bright colours, you shouldn’t expect that here. Still, it’s great to see the classic on such a big screen with such clarity.
With all the enhancements to the visuals, it isn’t the standout feature from the remastered film. That honour belongs to the sound. The soundtrack was always one that stood out, especially with the loud drumming and heavy silence. It is impactful on the standard film even watching on your TV or surround sound system.
Hearing it on IMAX’s six-channel system is beyond epic. The drums can be felt in your bones as the bass fills the room.
However, what caught my attention was those moments of silence. It may seem like an odd statement that the best part about the remastered sound was the silence. But, it’s true. It’s deafening. It sounds as if the speakers were letting out some white noise to affect how we perceived the silence, as you could hear a pin drop in the theatre. It was that silent.
I’m familiar with the slight hum of the aircon and large, 800KG IMAX projectors in the rear. You couldn’t hear that, at all. It was brilliant.
With re-releases of classic films, there’s always the worry that it wouldn’t have aged well. Whether it be the subject matter, political correctness, or even the storyline, there’s a lot that can change between a film’s release and watching it again some decades later. Despite the 32 years since the film’s release, there a lot about the film that rings true today. It fits in perfectly with the state of the world today. This is great from Akira’s perspective, but scary to think that we’ve come full circle in my lifetime. So, the impact of watching the film is as real as ever.
If there’s one thing that the release of Akira in IMAX has revealed to me, it’s that we need a lot more remasters of classic anime. I absolutely loved the experience. Being an avid movie-goer, an IMAX and anime fan, it just makes perfect sense.
Well done, Ster-Kinekor and IMAX!
A state-of-the-art adventure that can’t be missed 😃. FOR 1 WEEK ONLY, 1988 film Akira is coming EXCLUSIVELY to Ster-Kinekor’s Big SKreen but wait there’s more, It’s in IMAX! Bookings are now open: https://t.co/bBEoinEi4n #DoMoviesRight #SterKinekor #IMAX pic.twitter.com/ebsTavuZzH
— Ster-Kinekor (@sterkinekor) October 21, 2020
Whether it be the film’s subject matter and story, or the IMAX experience, Akira is a classic that deserved to be seen on the big screen. Being remastered in 4K was epic enough, but the addition of a superb audio experience makes it a must-see for all movie fans.